Sophie’s Visit to the Hennessy 8 Launch
I have to say, I was really excited to be invited to the official launch of Hennessy 8 in Los Angeles. After all, what else can a girl ask for? The chance to be present at a piece of Hennessy history, the chance to dress up, and the chance to mingle with Hollywood and Cognac royalty – what’s not to like?
Hennessy 8 is a pretty outstanding product. Only 250 decanters have been produced globally – so it’s going to be a much-wanted collector’s product. But the real reason why this is such a special cognac is because it’s the last official blend created by Cellar Master, Yann Fillioux, before handing over the reins to his nephew, Renaud Fillioux de Gironde.
Renaud will be the 8th generation of the Fillioux family to fill these shoes. And he’s definitely the man for the job. Not only does he have all those generations of knowledge passed down to him, but he’s been a member of the Hennessy tasting committee for the last 14 years. And in all that time his uncle has been carefully preparing him to take over on his retirement.
It’s a pretty amazing thing that in a house as large as Hennessy (the Number 1 in terms of size) there can be a run of 8 generations in a single family. Even in smaller, family run cognac houses, this kind of longevity is very rare.
As you might have already guessed, part of the reason the product is called Hennessy 8, is because of this eight-generation connection. The other is that eight different eaux-de-vie have been used to create the blend. Seven were chosen by Yann, and the eighth by Renaud.
So, let’s talk about the decanter. Created by renowned French crystal maker, Baccarat, the design is the work of artist, Arik Levy. The artwork is extremely intricate – uniting forms, materials, and colors from the world of cognac. The sculpture, if you will, is made of wooden bars, cut and assembled in a way that they curve around the bottle, and adorned by copper sheets. Levy is famous for his sculptures in various mediums, including wood and glass. Born in Tel Aviv, he graduated from the Art Center Europe in Switzerland, and today works out of his Parisian studio.
Onto the launch event… This was a super exclusive do for a small, select group. So I dressed with care in a dress by my favorite designer of the moment, Vladimir Karleev.
The evening started at an art gallery called ‘Please Do Not Enter’ – a funky concept art store in Olive Street, Los Angeles. On arrival we were greeted with delicious hors d’oeuvres and glasses of Hennessy XO on the rocks. People mingled and chatted; everyone seemed delighted to have been invited.
Then Yann and Renaud took to the floor to make a speech, and to present us with the beauty that is the Hennessy 8 decanter. After this there were some photo opportunities, including the chance for me to get a shot with Cellar Masters old and new, along with the decanter.
We were then all picked up by cars and driven to The London Hotel in Hollywood. Hennessy had taken over the penthouse and roof bar for the occasion. And it was here that we were all going to get the opportunity to taste Hennessy 8. To say that I was excited would be somewhat of an understatement.
Yann did another speech before officially handing over the title of Cellar Master to Renaud. Together they explained to us exactly how they’d come up with the concept for Hennessy 8, and how they’d gone about creating the blend. We were then each presented with a tiny bottle containing a glass of Hennessy 8.
After this amazing experience it was time for cocktails on the roof terrace. This was followed by dinner and a food-cognac pairing session. The meal was catered by an amazing chef from the Napa Valley – David Kinch. He creates contemporary Californian cuisine inspired by French and modern Catalan cooking. His restaurant, Manresa, located in Los Gatos, has been awarded two Michelin stars for an incredible nine years in a row – and in 2016, it has gained a third Michelin star.
Our taste buds satisfied, we then all headed back to the terrace to chat some more, serenaded by music.
I have to mention the amazing job done by Hennessy’s Head of Communication in Paris, Claire Piconnet. She looked after all the guests, ensuring we felt welcome and that everyone got the best out of the evening. She did this with her inimitable Parisian charm, ensuring the night went without a hitch. Claire has been a contact of Max and I at Cognac-Expert for years, and I want to pass on my thanks for such a delightful evening.
The event inevitably had to draw to an end. I was on a real high as the Hennessy-provided car took me home. It was a fabulous experience and one that I certainly won’t forget in a hurry. All of us at Cognac-Expert want to wish hearty congratulations to Renaud on his new appointment as Hennessy Cellar Master. We can’t wait to see what exciting creations he comes up with in the coming years.